This company is part of Executive’s Top 20 for 2015. Read more stories from our entrepreneurship in Lebanon section, for the latest analysis on the country’s ecosystem.
Industry: Health care and ICT
Product: Allergen and particle tracker
Product launch: January 2016
Founders: Cyrille Najjar and Eve Tamraz
Sensio AIR is the creation of Cyrille Najjar and neuroscientist Eve Tamraz, who founded the White Lab in early 2015 and have recently relocated to London with the second phase of the UK Lebanon Tech Hub acceleration program. Their product centers around a piece of hardware which detects “allergens like pollen, acarids and mold as well as harmful gasses” as quoted by the company, and feeds data on the quality of the air back to an app on a mobile device for analysis and notification. The patent for their device is filed in both the UK and Lebanon, which they have identified as key parts to their main sales market. Their idea was borne out of the fact that both cofounders suffered from allergies, but had limited ability to continuously monitor the quality of the air.
The device is similar to a smoke detector in installation and appearance and allows for quantitative and qualitative analysis of the quality of the air, especially that within the home. Sensio AIR has eyed Europe as a first main market in light of continuous reform to EU air quality directives, with the European Commission quoting air pollution as one of their “main environmental policy concerns since 1970”. Sensio AIR has identified 21 million people with respiratory problems in the UK alone, based on a 2010 report from Mintel, a global market research and insight firm, along with 12 million who are allergic to their own homes. The device therefore “detects everything that is in the air,” claims Najjar, who explains that it can observe particles down to a minimum of a micrometer, and often identify what the particle is. The smart allergen monitor has piqued interest among professionals and has already won two competitions: the Harvard Startup Pitch Competition in Boston and the Instituto de Empreza International Venture Day in Paris. Beta testing has been launched and electronics production is based in the UK, and Tamraz and Najjar claim that their product is more sensitive due to the accuracy of their hardware than any other detector on the market today. There are two versions, a bespoke and a business-to-business model. Their main unique selling point is that the device detects more than one presence within the air (e.g. both pollen and carbon monoxide), unlike a single feature device like a carbon monoxide detector. It also does not operate purely on ‘threshold technology’; detectors which will only sound an alarm when a certain level of a pathogen or toxic fume is reached. The Sensio AIR monitors the content and levels continuously and sends data to the user.
Najjar and Tamraz, along with their other two colleagues, eye selling 5,000 units in London, 1,000 in Paris and 200 in Beirut as a starter, and the company breaks even after the selling of 2,200 units, with Najjar confident that they will begin making profit after one year of sales. They will offer a variety of packages to accompany the units; an enterprise solution where the device is bought and a monthly fee is paid, a corporate 3G package, and a personal package which includes a one-off payment and installment of a wifi device for $299. Little boosters can also be installed in a separate room for small additional costs. The data on the units will be analyzed, and allergic homeowners can use the data in a health care perspective. Tamraz estimates that this will corroborate outbreaks with specific detected allergens, thus allowing for a diagnosis based on the principles of deduction rather than, for example, a test which pricks the skin with a needle containing a small amount of the allergen. They will launch the product during allergy season in March 2016, with the back end development based in Lebanon and the main sales market in London, though they hope to eventually have equal sales and demand here and eye the MENA region as a strong expansion plan because of frequent sandstorms. In commenting on the efficacy of their device, Najjar explains the testing they did on the quality of the air in Lebanon in summer 2015; “You don’t want to know, the results were so bad. We need a strainer, not a detector. We need to strain the air with a filter.”